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Fire destroys Pa. barn

Century-old structure held about 100 tons of hay

Century-old structure held about 100 tons of hay

June 15, 2007|by DON AINES

MERCERSBURG, PA. - More than a dozen fire companies responded to a Thursday morning fire that destroyed a century-old barn containing about 100 tons of hay and melted vinyl siding on a building more than 60 feet away.

The cause of the fire at the Hissong farm on Buchanan Trail West in Montgomery Township was under investigation by Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal Jeffrey Sarver.

The barn had no electrical service, was not used to store fuel and witnesses indicated the fire appeared to have started in the loft, where 180 large bales of hay were stored, he said.

"You have to be thankful it rained," said Kay Funk, whose house is across a farm lane from the barn.

"It could have been disastrous," said her mother-in-law, Sally Funk.

Across the road from the barn on the Funks' property is a swimming pool, and the vinyl fencing was buckled and wilted from the heat and the siding on a pool house had melted on one side. Grass on the side of the lane opposite the barn was singed stubble.

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"We don't think it was wet hay," said Dennis Hissong, referring to the possibility of spontaneous combustion. "We use moisture detectors as we put it in."

"It's probably at least 100 years old, maybe more than that even," Hissong said of the bank barn, which was reduced to charred beams and timbers collapsed into its stone base. Front-end loaders were being used to dig tons of smoking hay from the foundation.

Along with the hay, Hissong said the barn was used to store tires and spare parts for farm equipment. The barn measured about 86 feet by 40 feet, Sarver said.

The barn fire was the third at the Hissong farm since 1999, with the last fire occurring in 2002.

Fire Chief Dusty Stoner of the Mercersburg, Montgomery, Peters and Warren Volunteer Fire Co., said the dispatch call came in at 7:43 a.m., at which time the barn already was engulfed in flames. The first firefighters arrived at 7:55 a.m., he said.

Firefighters and tanker trucks were called in from the Greencastle Rescue Hose, St. Thomas, Marion, Mont Alto, Metal Township and Fannett-Metal fire companies, as well as the Waynesboro and Chambersburg fire departments. Units from McConnellsburg, Pa., in Fulton County, and Clear Spring, Maugansville and Williamsport in Maryland also assisted at the scene, along with the Washington County Air Unit, Stoner said.

Stoner said the last firefighters left the scene about 2:30 p.m.

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